Headed To the Top

Human Resource Executive® announces HR's Rising Stars: David Metzger, Guy-Joel de Lhoneux, Lynne Zappone, Marquam Piros and Mary Ellen Spedale.

By Scott Flander, Michael O'Brien and Carol Patton

HR's future is in good hands.

Just take a look at the five winners of Human Resource Executive®'s third annual HR's Rising Stars competition. They're all innovative leaders who have made a difference in their organizations through business-savvy initiatives and programs.

In the stories that follow, you'll see these five also fully understand what it takes to shepherd such initiatives through. Each, in his or her own way, for example, has demonstrated a talent for building relationships- -- a crucial element in securing buy-in.

Our goal with HR's Rising Stars is to bring recognition to HR leaders who aren't yet in the top ranks, but are clearly on their way.

These five have already shown they have what it takes.

The judges this year were Charles Tharp, president of the National Academy of Human Resources, in New Canaan, Conn.; Michele Darling, president of Michele Darling & Associates, in Mississauga, Ontario; Gregory Hessel, senior client partner and global director of the human resource practice at Korn/Ferry International's Dallas offices; and Kristen B. Frasch, managing editor of HRE.

There were many highly qualified candidates for this year's honors. That made it difficult for the judges, but it's good news for HR.

Who said there's a talent shortage?

David Metzger: Looking At the Big Picture

David Metzger doesn't believe in spending too much time in his office. The director of management development at Canon USA, Metzger would rather be talking with the company's senior business leaders, finding out what their challenges are and what they're trying to accomplish.

Those who know him say that while Metzger is highly organized and methodical, he also finds creative ways to put together the bigger picture, so he can more fully understand Canon's business needs.

And that understanding, in turn, has led to several high-impact initiatives at the Lake Success, N.Y.-based company, winning Metzger the respect of Canon leaders while also earning him special recognition as one of HRE's 2008 HR's Rising Stars.

One of those initiatives, launched in early 2006, was to identify high-potential leaders for development and succession planning. The genesis of that came when Metzger, who arrived at Canon a few months before, sat down with senior business leaders to see what they needed.

"They were saying, 'We really don't have a good feel for our talent; we don't necessarily know who all of our high-potential leaders are; we don't have a solid succession-management program in place,' " he recalls.

Metzger designed and implemented a plan to put 175 Canon leaders -- managers and above, but not including vice presidents -- through a rigorous assessment program that included a battery of standardized tests, 360-degree surveys and "leadership potential inventories" prepared by the leaders' supervisors.

Working with an external executive coach and an internal HR development coach, the participants each built an "internal development program" that identified areas in which they could improve their knowledge and skills.

But the most difficult part was still to come -- putting that plan into action, says Metzger. The participants worked with their HR coaches and managers to make sure the new skills were applied on the job.

As a result of the program, 30 of the participants were identified as high-potential and were put on "a fairly rigorous development plan," he says. By the summer of 2007, 40 percent of the smaller group had been promoted or moved into a role that would be considered a "stretch development assignment," he says.

Metzger began his career at Development Dimensions International, and worked at Capial One and Arrow Electronics before moving to Canon USA two and a half years ago. During his time at Canon, Metzger also designed, developed and administered the Canon Academy, where employees can take e-learning courses, and he's developed competency models covering every level of Canon employee.

Metzger says a big part of getting the buy-in he needs for his programs is positioning them as Canon business initiatives, rather than "just another HR flavor of the day."

"HR is here, and I am here, to drive higher levels of organizational performance," he says. "We don't focus on esoteric HR-speak types of things. We're helping the business and we're helping individuals with their careers. We're making a difference with every employee. It's very satisfying."

William Gilbert, Canon USA's vice president and general manager of HR, says that Metzger "is very thorough about understanding a problem. He seeks to develop a solution which is very clear [and] well-thought-out, and [he] also retains an ability to be somewhat flexible."

Adds Gilbert: "David's made quite a significant impact. He's well respected by all the senior management here."

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Guy-Joel de Lhoneux: The Power of Relationships

When consumer products giant Unilever -- maker of everything from Vaseline to Lipton tea -- decided to launch one of the largest global outsourcing initiatives ever, it turned to Guy-Joel de Lhoneux to help oversee the project.

It was no easy task. The London-based company had offices in 103 countries, and HR at each branch handled its own HR processes.

De Lhoneux is Unilever's vice president for global HR relationships, and like the best HR executives, he knows that an initiative like this is all about building relationships. Not only with your outsourcing partners, but -- perhaps more critically -- with HR leaders who face having their roles diminished.

"It's like getting turkeys to vote for Thanksgiving," says de Lhoneux, a native of Belgium and one of HRE's 2008 HR's Rising Stars.

Long and short of it, the outsourcing project has been a success and, in the process, de Lhoneux has emerged as a thought leader in European HR outsourcing and transformation. He was a co-host of the HRO World Europe Conference last year, and is one of the chairs of the European chapter of the HR Outsourcing Association.

De Lhoneux is a self-taught HR executive. He began his career as a consultant at Accenture and used public training and networking events to build his knowledge of HR best practices. He worked in HR at the Coca-Cola Co. before joining Unilever seven years ago.

He has "the global touch," says his boss, Reg Bull, Unilever's senior vice president of HR transformation. Global outsourcing, says Bull, "is as much art as science -- not everyone can do it." But de Lhoneux has an innate understanding of how cultures work and how they can fit into the global picture, says Bull. "He wears it like an old slipper."

De Lhoneux nicknamed the outsourcing initiative "Project Vie," after Vie, a Unilever juice product that offers 50 percent of a person's daily needed fruit and vegetable intake in a tiny bottle. "That represents us," he says, "a smaller HR team, with plenty of energy."

When the project began in early 2005, a key goal was to determine whether all the outsourcing could be done by a single provider. "The first thing was to understand, 'What do we want to buy?' " de Lhoneux recalls.

With the help of outside sourcing advisers from Houston-based EquaTerra, Unilever was getting proposals from three potential providers within a few months, and, in October, settled on Accenture. De Lhoneux says members of his team built a solid relationship with Accenture's delivery team.

"There's always a leap of faith," he says, when outsourcing -- you can never be totally certain the provider is going to meet your expectations. But you can help make that leap through communication and trust "instead of being very contractual with no context," he adds.

Having a good relationship with an outsourcing provider is also essential when unexpected problems arise, such as when changes in the contract are needed, or when something goes wrong.

"Always start with trust," says de Lhoneux. "People can only earn your distrust."

And it's important to deal with facts, not emotions.

"Usually you blame someone who did something wrong," he says. "Rather than go to the blame storyline, go to the facts. When you get to the facts, you can get to the root cause."

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Teaching for Life: Lynne Zappone

When Lynne Zappone was a teacher at R.L. Brown Sixth Grade Center in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1987, she attended a presentation on inter-personal skills for in-service credits. As she sat there and listened to the presenter, she realized something that would change her life.

"That's when I thought to myself, 'Whatever her job is, I want to do that,' " she says. It was that eureka moment that guided Zappone into the profession that would eventually lead to her being named one of HRE's 2008 HR's Rising Stars.

A year later, she brought up that presentation as she interviewed for a job in hotel training for Sheraton in Los Angeles. "I compared how the communication and relationship skills we were teaching the kids matched the skills being taught in the company's guest-satisfaction program," she recalls.

After getting the job, she went on to earn a master's degree in organizational management and is, today, the vice president of the Americas talent development and learning for the InterContinental Hotels Group and its 90,000 worldwide employees.

In 2003, the Atlanta-based company embarked on a comprehensive organizational restructuring and it was Zappone who was given responsibility for a new talent development and learning function that would consolidate the disparate training efforts that had been in place for three distinct groups: corporate headquarters employees in Atlanta, workers at IHG's 200 company-managed hotels and those at its 2,500 franchised hotels in the Americas region.

Adding to that already daunting challenge, IHG wanted training to make a profit by requiring franchised hotels pay for training services.

"The goal at first was to break even," she says. "We did a pretty thorough assessment of our offerings and then created a detailed five-year business plan. We detailed the costs of everything we did and evaluated each offering and asked ourselves, 'Is it a cost-effective proposition?' "

She also brought in experts to help design courses, required trainers to be certified and created a business-development group to analyze survey information and determine who needed to attend training in what areas. Courses were also offered online to reduce the need for employees to travel.

"We became very focused on the data to develop people," she says.

The program managed a small profit that first year, and in 2007, Zappone's team earned roughly $7.5 million in revenue from training courses paid for by franchised hotels.

For the third year in a row, the revenue was enough to cover the cost of providing the training and the expenses of her department.

"I think you can gain the respect of your client groups and they would be willing to pay for your services if they see you are really paying attention to what their needs are and are trying new approaches," she says.

Zappone also received high praise for her People Notice program for the company's Holiday Inn brand. The two-year training initiative involved 100,000 employees at more than 900 hotels in North America and was designed to raise employee performance and service delivery through Web-based support tools, multimedia training and ongoing coaching.

By its completion, Holiday Inn had surpassed all other hotel brands in its competitive set in terms of guest satisfaction, according to Zappone.

Looking ahead, Zappone says, HR executives must "be willing to challenge other leaders when they underestimate the impact that people issues can have on the business."

Zappone's supervisor, Kate Stillman, senior vice president of IHG Americas HR and talent development and learning, says Zappone continues to teach others by setting a great example in the workplace.

"Lynne is a tireless advocate for taking the time and going through the steps that produce high-quality results," she says. She is "a person of high integrity who keeps her promises and doesn't shy away from making difficult decisions."

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Marquam Piros: Pioneering the Future

It is perhaps fitting that a man named after one of the pioneering families of the Oregon Trail is being recognized as one of HRE's HR's Rising Stars because of his work with a platform called iMAP.

Marquam Piros, the senior director for performance and talent management, HR global leadership and learning for Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate Technology, joined the company in 1995 and has followed an ascending path since then -- with stops as a market research analyst, a market and competitive intelligence manager and a performance manager on his way to his current role.

He says his unusual first name honors an influential family who helped settle the city of Portland, Ore., after following the new trail from the East in the mid-1800s.

His own pioneering work at Seagate began when the performance-management solution that the computer hardware producer had been using was decommissioned by its vendor in 2004. When the company decided to unite its performance management and learning systems on one platform, Piros took on the challenge. The systems "were separate applications and processes, but had a lot of shared information," he says.

With the help of Wayland, Mass.-based software vendor Softscape, which manages the iMAP (integrated Maximizing Alignment and Performance) platform, Piros and his team of 12 "took the opportunity to integrate the processes and bring them together to offer them back as a complete solution," he says.

In bringing performance management and learning teams together to use one system, he was able to accept each team's established work practices while still uniting them into a single coordinated direction on the new iMAP platform.

The goal, Piros says, was to "enable self-service ... providing resources [for employees] to manage their performance, learning and development anytime, anywhere and bring transparency to the integration of these talent-management activities."

Debbie Hancock, vice president of HR global leadership and learning, says Piros, is very adept at juggling all the intricate details of the iMAP platform. "He's very good at being proactive and thinking ahead and gathering data and anticipating what's coming next," she says.

According to Softscape's Hilary Ives, who worked with Piros on the project, he was not only able to establish a common framework for the teams to work as a whole, but had the presence of mind to acknowledge the contributions each team had already made to the company's ongoing talent-management evolution.

Piros acknowledges the challenges present at the outset. "There was a lot of, 'This is our role and that is your role and they really don't touch,' " he says. "But by bringing them together, they could see the interdependence more."

But the biggest challenge, he says, was establishing flow between teams and how they worked together. So, to combat the sense of being siloed, Piros established a daily meeting to make sure everyone was on the same page and questions could be asked, such as, "How are we doing?" and "How does this fit together?"

The iMAP program is now so successful that 99 percent of Seagate employees have their own goals logged into the platform, and 97 percent receive their managers' evaluations through it. Piros also added a succession-planning element to the platform, which allows the CEO, executive vice presidents and senior vice presidents to have succession plans filed.

Just like the successful pioneers for whom he is named, Hancock says, "he's very into learning and exploring. He's continually reading articles and surveys and because of that, he adds even greater value to the company."

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For Mary Ellen Spedale, Learning Never Ends

Mary Ellen Spedale asks questions -- lots of them. She believes that's the only way HR can meet company demands and deliver what employees need to effectively perform their jobs.

Until recently the senior HR manager at Avon Products Inc. in Morton Grove, Ill., and now the HR director at Camping World/FreedomRoads in Lincolnshire, Ill., she thinks answers to questions solicit, by far, the best-laid plans.

A good example is the company's new distribution facility, scheduled to open next year in Zanesville, Ohio. By asking Avon's management team a series of questions about their staffing needs, she was able to develop an HR roadmap for recruiting 500 skilled and unskilled employees for the new facility.

But what she's most proud of is her contribution to the two-year Project McConnell, named after the company's founder, David H. McConnell. The project involved implementing a new inventory system called E1, short for Enterprise Resource Planning System, for its four distribution sites and two manufacturing plants.

It was Spedale's job to manage employee communications and training regarding E1's implementation for the company's 5,000 workers throughout North America. "This was a great opportunity," says Spedale, one of this year's HR's Rising Stars. "It was really about partnering with your business, instituting a change, getting people around it and supporting it."

Her first step was to find out what senior executives expected from HR. She says most people have 10 items on their wish list but only two are must-haves. By asking a series of questions, she was able to identify their top two needs: They wanted a logical and tangible approach to training workers and managing change.

With help from six Deloitte consultants, she designed a straightforward strategy for training, communications and change management. It had three key components: employee communications, transition guides and change networks.

Her HR team developed roughly 30 different transition guides -- each about a dozen pages -- for employees whose jobs would drastically change. The team also developed some 40 new training courses, then established something new to Avon -- change networks.

Spedale says some HR executives fail to implement this last step, which is crucial. She selected about 15 employees from distribution and another 15 from manufacturing to serve on focus groups. They participated in bi-monthly conference calls, providing input regarding the effectiveness of the new training courses.

Feedback wasn't always positive, says Tom Klein, executive director of manufacturing for Avon in Chicago. Still, he says, Spedale never became defensive and came to him in search of better training strategies.

"She's unbelievable at just asking you the right questions," Klein says. "Just through my interactions with her, she absolutely made me a better leader than I would have been otherwise."

In the end, production levels reached almost full speed within six weeks of training, instead of the anticipated 16 to 24 weeks.

Spedale, who holds a masters of science degree in HR and industrial relations from Loyola University in Chicago, says the project enhanced her skills and changed her perceptions about the role of HR. While she learned how to influence others to support HR activities, she now looks at the big picture, not just tactical execution.

"This is by far the biggest thing I've ever done," says Spedale. "I now look at HR as a very logical process -- how to partner with the business to give it what it needs."

May 16, 2008
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